Student Discovers Her Time to Shine

Like many college students, Darleen Ferguson has exciting plans for her future. But unlike many of her classmates, Darleen has already overcome the challenges of navigating a decades-long career path. She has also experienced the rewards that come from raising a family.

“I am 73 years old, and I proudly claim all 73 of those years,” Darleen boasts. “When I was young, I made sacrifices for my children. Now they’re doing good. Now it’s time for me. For the years I have left, I’m planning on enjoying them.”

Darleen took a decisive step into her future when she enrolled in “Computer Applications and Concepts” at Southside Virginia Community College during the Fall 2021 semester. The course provides basic instruction in fundamental computer topics, internet skills, and commonly used software programs.

“You can do so much nowadays with a computer,” Darleen says. She speaks from the perspective of a person who knows how much the world has been transformed. When Darleen first joined the workforce, she lived in the Washington, DC area and was employed by a company that had a large, room-filling IBM machine. “Since then, everything has changed,” she laughs. “People even have computers in their homes.”

Darleen’s own life has been through dramatic changes as well. She had to put an earlier quest for education aside in order to focus on raising her two young daughters. When her father retired from the DC police force and moved to southside Virginia, she followed him. She worked as a Teacher’s Aide with Brunswick County Schools and then as a Nurse Aide for Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill. Eventually, she enrolled in SVCC’s RN program, but her plans were derailed when she developed sarcoidosis, a serious lung disease that required intense care and a lengthy recovery.

“When the sarcoidosis hit me, I became very depressed because I went from doing a lot to not being able to do anything,” Darleen remembers. After one attempt at returning to work resulted in a relapse and rehospitalization, she realized that returning to full-time work would not be possible.

In time, Darleen recovered sufficiently to embrace volunteer work. Today, she serves VCU Health CMH through the CMH Auxiliary, an organization that exists to serve the hospital’s patients, visitors, and staff. Her primary duties include working at the Information Desk and in the Surgical Waiting Room. Darleen also serves as Chairperson of the Scholarship Fund and as the 2nd Vice President of the CMH Auxiliary, roles that require writing reports and organizing fundraising efforts. Her developing computer skills are already helping her do these tasks more efficiently.

Recalling the motivation that inspired her to return to academic pursuits, she says, “I credit my children who push me. My daughters give me hand-me-down electronic devices and encourage me, telling me I can do it.”

She attends classes once a week. “I like to be able to sit in a classroom and raise my hand. The teacher is very nice and helpful, and my fellow students help me.” 

Her instructor, Kelley LaPrade, Associate Professor of Information Technology, notes, “At SVCC, we have students of all ages from high school to senior citizens. Ms. Ferguson has been a joy to have in class and her persistence encourages me and others to be lifelong learners. The other students enjoy her in class. She is learning to use software tools, she has learned Canvas, how to use an e-book, and how to submit online assignments.”

Darleen’s computer course is just the first step of a longer journey. When she’s finished, she plans to pursue a Career Studies Certificate in bookkeeping, a pathway that will require 17 credits.

“Every year, the Auxiliary sponsors the Tree of Love Ceremony that funds the Elizabeth T. Mosley Scholarship Fund to help people who work at the hospital to advance their education.” Darleen’s tasks include keeping track of donor’s names and addresses and other recordkeeping. She looks forward to Bookkeeping Training to help keep a watchful eye on every penny.

Darleen encourages other senior citizens to consider educational pursuits. “You’re never too old,” she says. “It’s something to keep your mind going. Learning gives you something to do to overcome aches and pains. Senior citizens have an advantage because they don’t have competing obligations, like child care and work schedules.”

SVCC offers a wide slate of flexible options for students of all ages. For more information, please visit SVCC’s website (southside.edu) or call 434-949-1021.

Darleen reminds you, “It’s your time to do what you want to do. Go ahead and try. You never know what you can do until you try.”

Governor Northam Celebrates New Virginia Department of Energy

New name for team leading Commonwealth’s transition to clean economy

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced on October 1st that the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is now the Virginia Department of Energy (Virginia Energy). The name change was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Northam in April 2021. It became official today, October 1st, 2021.

“Virginia is all-in on clean energy,” said Governor Northam. “We've passed one of the most sweeping clean energy laws in the country, and we are transitioning our electric grid to 100 percent clean energy. These are exciting changes, and they mean new jobs, new investment, cleaner air, and a stronger economy.”

The agency's name change and reorganization follows the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act. The act establishes a mandatory renewable portfolio standard to achieve 30 percent renewable energy by 2030, a mandatory energy efficiency resource standard, and the path to a carbon-free electric grid by 2050. The bill also declares that 16,100 megawatts of solar and onshore wind, 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind, and 2,700 megawatts of energy storage are in the public interest. This provides a pathway for clean energy resources to be constructed, while ensuring that the investments are made in a cost-effective way. The Virginia Clean Economy Act protects customers with a program that helps reduce electricity bills and brings energy efficiency savings to low-income households.

The legislation also changed the former Division of Energy to Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency and the former Division of Mined Land Reclamation to Mined Land Repurposing.

“The Virginia Department of Energy has a long history of working with partners across the energy sector and across government at all levels in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Collaboration between the agency and these partners will be critical to meeting the climate goals that are so important to all of us. This change reflects the agency’s mission to support clean energy programs and energy infrastructure development.”

The Virginia Department of Energy was reorganized to increase the agency’s focus on clean energy in January 2021. Resources were shifted toward development opportunities associated with the repurposing of previously mined sites. Projects include those in the solar energy, agriculture, recreational, cultural, and industrial sectors.

“This agency will continue to provide a high level of service to our traditional customer base, while enhancing the communities we serve,” said Virginia Energy Director John Warren. “The well-timed clean energy movement has allowed us to respond and realign our staff, enabling us to work on new initiatives while keeping our continued customer service.”

The agency’s new website went live today at energy.virginia.gov. Staff emails will also reflect the change, as their domain names will now be “@energy.virginia.gov.”

Virginia Energy was created in 1985 as the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. At that time, the agency mostly served the mining industries, ensuring the safety of coal, mineral, gas, and oil workers and environmental compliance at each site. It also housed the state’s energy office, which has expanded significantly after the passing of the Virginia Clean Economy Act in 2020.

Virginia Energy has nearly 200 employees across the Commonwealth, with offices in Big Stone Gap, Charlottesville, and Richmond. The agency serves as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Virginia State Energy Office and manages state-based clean energy policy and deployment initiatives. Virginia Energy serves as the regulatory agency for coal and mineral mining, as well as natural gas production. Federal grants are administered by Virginia Energy staff to reclaim historic mines through the Abandoned Mine Land program. It also houses Virginia’s Geology and Mineral Resources program.

Clean energy means jobs, a strong economy, and a future for our children.

VCU Health Anywhere

Non-emergency care without an appointment

We offer on-demand virtual urgent clinic visits to adults in Virginia from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., daily. No appointment is required. All virtual visits with VCU Health System providers are conducted online from the comfort of your home using a smartphone, tablet or computer. To download our app and get started, visit vcuhealthanywhere.org.

We treat a variety of symptoms and conditions using telehealth, including mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19. Additional symptoms and conditions include:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma 
  • Colds and Flu
  • Diarrhea
  • Infections
  • Insect Bites
  • Conjunctivitis (i.e. Pink Eye)
  • Rashes
  • Respiratory Infections
  • Skin Inflammations
  • Sore Throats
  • Sprains and Strains
  • Bladder Infections
  • UTIs
  • Vomiting

Virtual visits do not cost more than an in-person appointment visits. Depending on the health insurance coverage plan, a patient’s copay for in-person and virtual visits may be the same. We are committed to providing our patients access to affordable health care. Patients with more questions can visit our financial assistance page or call our Financial Counseling Call Center at (804) 828-0966.

Current employees of VCU Health should call Employee Health or Infection Prevention if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

How to Have a Successful Virtual Visit

You'll need a strong internet connection (or Wi-Fi) and a noise-free environment. Devices must have a working camera, speakers and a microphone. To optimize your virtual visit experience, please use one of the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Microsoft Edge.

Scheduled Virtual Visits

Appointments are required to speak with a VCU Health CMH specialist. To schedule a virtual visit, make an appointment by calling (434) 584-2273.

Please do not use the virtual urgent clinic to ask about COVID-19 vaccine booster appointments. View frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19.

If you are having a medical emergency, please call 911.



Community policing -- the practice of law enforcement professionals working side-by-side with members of their communities to keep neighborhoods safe -- is a critical and proven tool used by law enforcement agencies across our Nation to improve public safety and forge strong, valuable relationships.  During National Community Policing Week, we recommit to building bonds of trust between our law enforcement officers and the communities they serve and encourage community policing practices across our Nation.

America's law enforcement officers play an essential role in protecting our communities and enforcing our laws.  Every time an officer pins on their badge and walks out their front door, the loved ones they wave goodbye to are forced to wonder if they will return home safely.  This week and every week, we recognize the bravery and dedication of our peace officers who put themselves on the line each and every day to protect and serve their communities. 

We also recognize the role that all community members play in advancing public safety.  As our country continues to reckon with a long and painful history of systemic racism -- as well as the ongoing challenges of social and economic injustice, the COVID-19 pandemic, mental illness, homelessness, and substance abuse -- we must think broadly, conscientiously, and creatively about the future of effective policing and how to foster strong police-community partnerships.  Evidence and experience tell us that strong neighborhood relationships, the use of problem-solving to address crime systematically, and improvements to policy and training -- key tenets of community policing -- are all tools that help make our communities safer.  My Administration is using programs such as the Department of Justice's Project Safe Neighborhoods to bring together law enforcement and community stakeholders in an effort to develop local solutions to help prevent violent crime.

I have long been an advocate for community policing, just as my late son Beau was when he served as Attorney General of Delaware -- because he knew, as I know, that it works.  It is especially important now, as State and local governments across the country continue to climb back from the once-in-a-century economic crisis triggered by COVID-19 last year.  With their budgets decimated, countless communities were forced to cut essential services in 2020, including law enforcement and social services, just as a second public health epidemic of gun violence threatened the safety of their cities and towns.  To help keep our communities safe, my Administration has provided local leaders with guidance on how American Rescue Plan funds can be used to help reduce violent crime and ensure public safety.  I am also committed to investing in mental health services, drug treatment and prevention programs, services for people experiencing homelessness, and community violence intervention.  Community violence intervention programs are vital to preventing violence before it occurs, and they have a proven track record of reducing crime by up to 60 percent in cities across our Nation. 

My Administration is also working to ensure that police departments have the resources they need to serve their communities safely and effectively.  Communities experiencing a surge in gun violence can make use of $350 billion in State and local funding included in the American Rescue Plan to hire law enforcement officers and advance community policing strategies.  I have also proposed an additional $300 million in my budget for next year to support community policing across our country.  As I seek that additional funding, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Department of Justice will continue to provide grants for community policing pilot projects and hiring local police officers -- including funding prioritization for officers who will live in the communities they serve.  These new resources will allow departments to implement community policing strategies and strengthen police-community partnerships.

At its core, community policing is about building trust and mutual respect between police and communities -- important goals that can only be reached when we have accountability and faith in our justice system.  That's why I strongly support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would deliver meaningful accountability, improved transparency, and the resources necessary to support community policing and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.  Although that bill is not yet law, my Administration will continue to consult with the law enforcement and civil rights communities to achieve reforms that advance safety, dignity, and equal justice for all Americans. 

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 3 through October 9, 2021, as National Community Policing Week.  I call upon law enforcement agencies, elected officials, and all Americans to observe this week by recognizing ways to improve public safety, build trust, and strengthen community relationships.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth.

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